Follow That Bird or Snuffy’s Got to Go!

Allan Konar By Allan Konar
Aug. 10, 2017

There’s trouble brewing on Sesame Street. Nobody believes that Big Bird’s imaginary friend, Snuffleupagus, exists. Worse yet, Linda, Maria and Gordon are getting fed up with Big Bird blaming the invisible mammoth whenever something goes wrong and nobody else is around to see it.

Big Bird Obama

I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear I’ve had sick kids at home the last few weeks. And yes, maybe I’m a bit sleep deprived and fighting cabin fever, but it’s also given me a chance to think about things with a fresh perspective at 3 a.m. I work in the contact center industry, and the question as to who or what’s to blame when things go wrong is surprisingly relevant.

It should probably shock no one that the biggest challenge faced by contact centers is agent attrition. Strategic Contact reported that it’s an age-old problem that plays a major role in saturated markets with ample opportunities to go elsewhere, whether for a little pay bump, less stress or a new opportunity.

Unsurprisingly, they found that cross-departmental cooperation ranked as the #2 challenge and that both were perennial burdens, occupying the #1 and #2 slots for some time. Unfortunately, these challenges directly impact costs and customer satisfaction. We know it’s expensive to attract, train and retain agents (in fact on average employee turnover costs as much as 21% of an employee’s salary according to Glassdoor Economic Research) and that it’s tough to maintain quality service with annual turnover rates of 33%, going as high as 70% in organizations with staff of 1,000 or more.
Global Workplace Analytics found that “regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 115% since 2005, nearly ten times faster than the rest of the workforce", making it tougher than ever to foster intra, let alone inter-departmental collaboration.
The Customer Contact Council also investigated the impact of customer service on customer loyalty. Two critical findings emerged that should affect every company’s customer service strategy. First, delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problems solved—does. Second, acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.

The research also showed that most people tend to complain more about a poor service interaction than a positive one. In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all of the other social oversharing services, that can be bad news.

I hear you thinking, “Wait now, what does this all have to do with Big Bird and Snuffy?”

I’m glad you asked. 







It wasn’t until a nice Canadian (is there any other kind?) folk singer, Buffy Sainte-Marie, sang Big Bird a song about her belief in Snuffy that Linda, Maria and Gordon promised to believe in him. 

Turns out, those were just words. 

It wasn’t until a decade later, with Big Bird having to endure a local newspaper article with the headline, “Snuffy’s Got To Go!” that Elmo helped to prove the existence of the previously purportedly pretend pachyderm.
That got me to thinking, how can we help remote agents become more visible  (although not quite as metaphysically as Elmo and Bird, of course). More importantly, how do we get them a place to live on Sesame Street, or at least make them feel a part of a team that they may never meet in person?

Empower your agents. 

But we do that already! We have a Quality Assurance group that scores their calls and drives training. Heck, we give them the ability to offer discounts and refunds to unhappy customers.

The same study reported that eighty percent of customer service organizations use customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores as the primary metric for gauging the customer’s experience, but in fact there is little relationship between satisfaction and loyalty. “Twenty percent of the “satisfied” customers in our study said they intended to leave the company in question; twenty-eight percent of the “dissatisfied” customers intended to stay. Customers are four times more likely to leave a service interaction disloyal than loyal.”

So what should contact center organizations do? Make it easy for both your customers and agents. Take these four steps:

1. Enable agents to easily collaborate.
2. Make collaboration independent of physical distances and unseen boundaries.
3. Make sure agents have context before engaging with a customer.
4. Ensure customers have consistent interactions with your agents.

Collaboration builds teams. It enables communication. According to Forbes, focusing on building a social network that makes people feel like they fit in can prevent them from quitting and potentially save the company the expensive loss of institutional knowledge.

Tools like CaféX Supervisor Assist enable seamless team collaboration across technical, organizational and physical boundaries. Being able to instantly flag down a supervisor or a subject matter expert (SME) through a button click virtual raised hand, chat and screen sharing through a single interface removes previously daunting barriers and helps improve employee satisfaction (and of course reduces attrition).

But what about the customer? Make their interactions easier.

Harvard evaluated the predictive power of CSAT, NPS and a new metric they developed, the Customer Effort Score (CES) on customer loyalty. CSAT was a poor predictor. NPS was better at the company level. But, CES outperformed both in customer service interactions.

Don’t put customers constantly on hold while tracking down answers. Ensure that they get a consistent baseline level of service (there will always be superstars, but there shouldn’t be significant variations in proficiency across the majority of your customer-facing staff).

Equally important, ensure that whoever customers interact with has the context for the interaction from the beginning. There’s very little as frustrating as having to tell the same story over and over as you’re transferred between agents. Tools like Supervisor Assist that can automatically alert agents to potential escalations and enable their supervisors to proactively intervene with coaching and support help to reduce customer frustration.

The bonus?

You’re empowering your agents while reducing the effort your customers have to put into resolving their issues. 

Two (big) birds with one stone (excuse the pun, please).

To find out more about how Supervisor Assist can help you deal with the mammoth in the room, check out our website.